What a team! What a series! What a journey!
Down 1-3 to the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs, and losing by lopsided 37 and 19-point margins; the Denver Nuggets found a switch to eventually bounce back and win the series 4-3.
They were down once again to the even more-loaded Los Angeles Clippers 1-3, and trailing by 15 and 19 points in the third quarter of supposedly close-out games 5 and 6; and still, they survive to tie it up again 3-3.
In last year’s playoffs, they went through 2 similar 7-game series, winning a first round nail-biter against the San Antonio Spurs 4-3, before succumbing to the Portland Trail Blazers 3-4.
This will be their fourth 7-game down-the-wire struggle in a row. This will also be their second nerve-wracking series coming back from a seemingly insurmountable 1-3 deficit. If the Nuggets don’t get to mature under these circumstances, I don’t know how else they can. If they don’t develop that self-confidence individually and collectively as a team, I don’t see how else they will.
And if you don’t believe these Nuggets still, I don’t think you ever will.
What I do know is that these young, amazing Nuggets have the veteran Clippers on the ropes. They have the momentum. They are playing loose. Enjoying the ride of their lives. They have shown they can go eyeball-to-eyeball with the juggernaut. They will not be cowed. They can take a punch, and dish back one of their own too. And yes, they are brimming with so much confidence.
With the swagger and the youthful energy this group has, the Nuggets may just come up with the shocker of the year if it pulls through with this 2nd straight Houdini act. If the Nuggets upend the Clippers, they will stop the Clippers’ ambitious bid for glory this year, with the dynasty-building acquisition of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. They will ruin the much-awaited ‘Battle for LA’ between the Lakers and Clippers. They will erase the growing myth of Kawhi, as the ultimate playoff player. They will deny the world of the dream face-off between King Lebron and Kawhi, his heir apparent. Consider that Lebron and Kawhi are the only active players in the NBA to have made Finals MVP for 2 different ballclubs.
Indeed, the Denver Nuggets are in the cusp of making basketball history. Not only in their bid to reach the NBA Finals. For Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, beating the upcoming Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert was one thing. Eliminating the established Kawhi and Paul George tandem will be a big thing. That will give them the opportunity of a lifetime – to draw swords against the Lebron-Anthony Davis duo. And the chance to rule the cage world.
But nothing seems to surprise these Nuggets now. They have clothed themselves with an armor of invincibility that can take them all the way to the very top. Unfazed by the pressure, unmindful of the bullying tactics, these brash upstarts are just glad to be alive still, and playing with the big boys. They are playing happy, feeling no pressure, and making the other teams sweat and take serious notice.
The Denver Nuggets have made believers among those of us who love the underdog. They have captured the imagination of those small market cities that have had difficulties luring in the big stars. They have whet the appetites of those who crave for fresh new heroes and a new era in the NBA. Maybe it was the pandemic, which cut the season in half. Maybe it was Bubble-basketball, which took away the traditional homecourt advantage. Suffice it to say that with this year’s uncertainties, NBA basketball has never been as unpredictable as it has now. Who knows? If they continue playing smooth Denver ball, this could finally be the year the Nuggets get to ball.
Catch the exciting 7th game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Denver Nuggets tomorrow. It will be a test of wills, a clash of skills, a do-or-die fight where only 1 moves on to greater glory. For the Nuggets, they have nothing to lose. For the Clippers, a loss now would be a big letdown, to say the least. I’ll see you there.
Cover pic courtesy of USA Today. Other pics courtesy of Kim Clement, USA Today, Clips Nation, Denver Stiffs, Sportskeeda, Mark Terrill, the LA Times, Mike Ehrmann, Michael Reaves, Getty Images, Canon City Daily Record, The Rookie Wire and Bet US.